5 Ways To Ask for Help in English | Common Expressions & Vocabulary #spon

Lesson Overview

This lesson is full of English expressions used when asking for help in English! Including:
– Modal verbs used when asking for help
– (to) give/lend (someone) a hand
– (to) help (someone) out
– (to) do (someone) a favour
– I could use some help

Video Transcript

Hello, I’m Emma from mmmEnglish!

Are you here for some help with your English? Probably. Well, you’re in the right place! You just need to ask and there are so many different ways to ask for help in English.

In this lesson, I’m going to share some common expressions and collocations to help you confidently ask for help in English. I’ll be talking about which modal verbs you can use when asking for help and I’ll also share some really common expressions with you. Like:

  • To give/lend someone a hand
  • To help someone out
  • To do someone a favour
  • I could use some help.

All of these expressions will be useful when asking for help from an native English speaker.

Speaking of helping someone out, have you heard of the HiNative app? By using it you can get help from native English speakers and help other people out who are learning your native language.

It’s an app that works just like a language exchange between native speakers of just about any language. You can ask a question and other native speakers in the community will help you to answer it.

So you know sometimes you come across English phrases that you just can’t find in a dictionary. Some random line from a movie or some weird song lyrics. HiNative can get you the answers HiNative can get you the answers when a dictionary can’t.

So let’s say you’re Spanish and you heard some words in an English song that you just don’t really understand.

  • I’ll be loungin’ on the couch just chillin’ in my Snuggie.

It’s like having a native English-speaking friend that you can ask for help at any time! You type your question and a native English speaker will write back to you, usually in just a couple of minutes. You can even upload a voice recording to get feedback on your pronunciation.

Chilling means relax. A Snuggie is a brand of super comfortable clothing, a little bit like a blanket. So “chillin’ in my Snuggie” means to relax whilst wearing my Snuggie. Cool!

When other people learning your native language have questions, then you can help them out too! It’s so cool! It’s free to download and it works on any smartphone! Getting help from native English speakers is a piece of cake with HiNative!

So when you need help, how can you ask for it? Well, let’s start with the basics. There are a few modal verbs that are really helpful when asking for help.

  • Can – “can you help me?”
    which means are you able to help?
  • Could – “could you help me?”
    which means is it possible for you to help?
  • Would –  “would you help me?”
    which means are you willing to help?

Other modal verbs are possible too but these three are the most common ones when asking for help. If you need to be really polite when asking for help like when you’re talking to a colleague or your boss or a customer for example, it’s a good idea to include “would you mind”.

  • Would you mind helping me?

Notice how the verb form following changes when you’re using “would you mind”. The main verb is always in the -ing form. So these modal verbs are often used to request for help. But what about some of the other expressions that I mentioned at the start of this video?

(To) give (someone) a hand /
(To) lend (someone) a hand

This is another really common way to ask for help in English. I use this expression all the time.

  • Can you give me a hand for a minute?
  • Could you lend me a hand?

It’s a casual, relaxed way to ask for help. Usually it’s used when what you’re asking doesn’t require a huge amount of effort from the person that you’re asking for help. Here are some more examples in different contexts with different tenses.

  • Can you give me a hand with these shopping bags? They’re really heavy!
  • My mum really needs someone to give her a hand in the shop on Thursday.
  • Thanks so much for giving us a hand yesterday! My brother gave me a hand moving furniture into the new apartment.
  • It was so hot! I wish you had given me a hand.

See how the verb form changes with these expressions when the tense changes.

  • Mum needs someone to give her a hand. 
  • Thanks so much for giving us a hand.
  • My brother gave me a hand.
  • I wish you had given me a hand.

To help someone out

Help me out, help you out, help them out. Help anybody out!

When you’re asking someone to do something for you or to help you solve a problem, you can use this phrasal verb. But you usually need to say who needs the help. So for example,

  • I need to translate this sentence. Can you help me out?
  • I’d really like to help you out, but I’ll be working on Saturday.
  • John always helps his neighbours out.
  • His parents helped him out when he bought his first house.

And in this context, this means that they gave him money.

(To) help out

It can be with assistance or it can be with money.

Now, all those examples were transitive phrasal verbs. I told you who was receiving the help. But “help out” can also be intransitive but that’s when we know who is being helped by the context. So let me show you with some examples.

  • Could you work in the shop next Tuesday? I know that’s usually your day off… Sure, I can help out!

It’s clear what I’m going to help out with.

  • I know you’ve got lots on at the moment. Would you like the kids to help out tomorrow?

Now if you want, you can add ‘with’ to say what help you need. So the structure is to help out with something or to help somebody out with something.

  • Can you help me out with this question?
  • My brothers and I are lucky my mum and dad usually help us out with money if we really need it.

Okay here’s an interesting expression that will allow you to ask for help. I wonder if you’ve heard of it.

(To) do (someone) a favour

A favour. What’s a favour? Well it’s something that you can do for someone to help them. And it’s not specific but you can ask someone to do you a favour that will help you and the way to do that is to say, “Could you do me a favour?” or “Can I ask you for a favour?”

Now when you’re asking for help, these are great expressions to use. Once you’ve asked someone for a favour, you can also owe someone a favour.

  • I owe you a favour.

So if you’ve helped me in the past and I want to help you, to show you how much I appreciate it, then I can use this expression “I owe you a favour” It’s my turn to do something for you.

In fact, you can say “let me return the favour” when you want to do something for the person who previously helped you. The person who helped you in the past. You can say:

  • I want to return the favour.

When talking about favours, you need to remember that this is a countable noun. So you need to include ‘a’ when you’re talking about a single favour. You also need to remember these collocations. These are the words that you’ll often hear and see used with favour.

  • To do someone a favour.
  • To ask someone a favour.
  • To owe someone a favour.
  • And to return a favour or return the favour.

For example:

  • He really did me a favour by introducing me to Terry.
  • John keeps asking me for favours, and I’ve had enough!
  • My sister owes you a favour!
  • She returned the favour last week, she took me to a football game!

You know what?

I could use some help

This expression is quite vague, it’s not being specific about what help you need or who you need the help from. And it’s quite useful in a professional context when you might not want to ask for help but still you would like someone to help you out. You can make this request a little more direct by saying “I could use your help” instead of “some help”. In this expression you must use ‘could’ as the modal verb. The expression doesn’t sound right if you say “I can use your help”.

  • I could use your help moving this furniture. 
  • I could use your help with dinner.

I could use a hand

You can also use “I could use a hand” in the same way.

  • I could use a hand, these bags are really heavy!
  • Paul looks like he could use a hand.

So there you have it! Five ways to ask for help in English naturally. Now idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs like the examples in this lesson are a little tricky but try to focus on these ones this week.

Ask for help from as many people as you can and offer your help to others too! It will be great practice.

As an extra bonus, I’ll share an interesting expression with you about help.

Have you ever heard anyone say “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!”

It’s used when two people both do something to help the other, so that they’re both being helped. They’re both benefiting. The HiNative app is a perfect example of this. When you help from a native English speaker, you can return the favour by helping them to understand an expression in your native language. Everybody wins!

If you enjoyed this lesson, make sure you subscribe to the mmmEnglish channel by clicking that red button down there and check out some of my other lessons right here!

Thanks for watching and I will see you next week for another lesson. Bye for now!

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